CSUN looks to refresh some outdated websites

summer Sundial

Lindsay Mills

Summer Sundial

CSUN’s web presence, although an important part of future university

plans, has faced challenges in recent years as budget cuts,

insufficient resources and the lack of a full-time web manager has

allowed some CSUN websites to become out-of-date.

Last fall, CSUN President Jolene Koester organized a committee to

gather information on how to better manage the university’s web

presence, create guidelines and determine web policy, among other


Koester realized university websites were in some ways insufficient,

according to Ken Swisher, director of marketing communications for

Public Relations and Strategic Communication.

Swisher was appointed’ chair of the University Web Management

Committee, which is currently seeking to fill a full-time web manager


‘?We are vastly understaffed compared to the other (CSU campuses) who

have around five web managers, with an average of two to three

full-time web managers,’ Swisher said. ‘?We had ‘ less than one person

managing our websites full time.’

The university is in the latter stages of hiring a full-time web

manager, whom officials hope to have in place prior to the start of the

Fall 2005 semester.

CSUN looks forward to improvements on school websites within a few

months, Swisher said.

‘?Hopefully, soon there will be more like two or three people working

full time as web managers,’ he said. ‘?We can keep (the site) current,

have everyone updating regularly and be consistent in the look and feel

of the site.’

In a poll done by the committee, 65 percent of people surveyed said

the content on the site was good, while 38 percent reported they had

problems quickly finding the information they were looking for.

‘?We gathered information on how to be better managed,’ Swisher said.

‘?Most people came back and said that it is not managed as well as they

would like it to be.’

People value the CSUN website as an information tool, but there was

frustration in finding what they wanted once they were there, he said.

The goal is to upgrade the look and consistency of the site, as well

as provide guidelines on how often it needs to be updated.

‘?The websites are critically important to current and prospective

students,’ Swisher said. ‘?The first introduction to the university is

electronic, though the web.’

John Chandler, director of Public Relations and Strategic

Communications, said web presence is becoming more and more important

to the university.

‘?Some years ago, it wasn’t a big thing,’ Chandler said. ‘?But that

has changed dramatically. After the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the

(website) has been growing. There is now a computer community at large.’

Many sites linked from the main CSUN webpage are not updated as new

information becomes available.

In addition to out of date newsletters for the University Club and

an Associated Students website that still lists its Fall 2004 officers

as current, the Office of Institutional Research, which compiles data

and performs analyses of enrollment figures, among other things, has

not updated its online ‘?Fact Book’ since the 2002-03 version.

‘?We’ve been down (between three and four) people for the past year,

so we have been pinch-hitting,’ said Barbara Hlinka, assistant director

of Institutional Research in Academic Resources and Planning. ‘?It is

hard to find good people (to maintain the websites) with the money we


Recent retirements by Institutional Research staff members have not

allowed the department to have sufficient resources to update and

maintain its website, Hlinka said.

‘?It would be very strategic (to have the site current) because then

we could refer our customers to it,’ Hlinka said. ‘?I certainly hope it

will be current within the next six months.’

‘?The last few years have not been good for the state or the budget,’

she said, ‘?So the responsibility (of keeping the sites up to date)

falls onto people whose jobs are something else, (like) a department

secretary or a student assistant.’

The issue of websites not being up to date is a common one for the

university, Chandler said.

No one place or department is responsible for all university

websites. Each academic department typically maintains its own web

presence, Chandler said.

‘?There is a small number of employees whose job it is to do the

websites,’ Chandler said. ‘?None of us are webmasters. It is not part of

our job descriptions. Everyone struggles with time and resources.’

A site that is maintained consistently is the Oviatt Library’s

webpage. This site is undergoing a ‘?face lift’ to motivate more

students to use the site, and will fully launch a new version the first

week of August.

‘?Our purpose (in the face lift) was an increased ease of use, and we

want students and faculty to readily see the full range of our

services,’ said Susan Curzon, dean of the University Library. ‘?It is

important that our library users see quickly the widest range of (our)


The new site will have the same information, but features different

organization designed to make library services more visible and easier

to navigate through.

There is a very high level of importance in keeping the library’s

sites up to date, Curzon said, adding that the resources found on the

site are critical and vital for student and faculty research.

‘?Last year, our webpages were used 7.1 million times,’ Curzon said.

‘?The mission of a university is centered on learning, on the teaching

of knowledge and on the creation of knowledge. The mission of a library

(and it’s website) is to preserve and make knowledge accessible to all.’

The university recognizes that keeping current and fresh websites is

a high priority, and CSUN needs to improve in that area, Chandler said.

‘?This is such a large campus with close to 50 academic departments,

with every college having their own site,’ said Chandler. ‘?Not to

mention, individual faculty have sites, and so do the different

auxiliary groups, public safety, etc.’

‘?There is enormous presence, but the web is more fluid (than printed

publications) and is never done changing.’